Sitemap

Why Germany struggles to understand the issues at heart of Brexit?

CorD Recommends

Geneva Motor Show Shuts Down After 119 Years

The Geneva International Motor Show, a century-old...

Indian Parliamentary Elections Break World Record with 642 Million Voters

The Indian Election Commission announced on Monday...

John Lennon’s Acoustic Guitar Sells for Over $2.8 Million

An acoustic guitar once played by John...

Belgrade Prepares for Expo 2027 with a Focus on Play and Creativity

Belgrade is gearing up to host the Specialized Expo 2027, a global event set to captivate the world from...

European Centrist Parties Retain Majority in New EU Parliament Session

According to preliminary results from the European Parliament elections, the European People's Party (EPP), Social Democrats (S&D), and Liberals...

Sweden’s National Day Celebrated in Serbia with a Touch of ABBA

The Embassy of Sweden in Serbia celebrated the nation's 501st National Day in a lively reception hosted by Ambassador...

Serbian High Jumper Angelina Topić Wins Silver at European Championships in Rome

Serbian high jumper Angelina Topić secured a silver medal at the European Championships in Rome, clearing a height of...

Narendra Modi Sworn In as India’s Prime Minister for Third Term

Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been sworn in as Prime Minister of...

Britain’s stubborn, uncompromising political culture favours small victories over compromise. In Germany, where coalition-building is the norm, Brexit bewilderment remains strong.

Throughout the whole sorry Brexit saga, politically-minded Germans have had to throw a fair few of their preconceptions about the British out of the window.

Last month’s turbulent European Council in Brussels that found a solution for a delay to the UK’s exit was a further case in point. UK-EU relations have often been tense and complicated, but there was always the recourse to the pragmatism of the British, to fall back to what works.

Yet not for the first time, that was not in evidence at the summit. Once more Theresa May met the leaders of 27 other EU countries and came only with a Plan A – to submit the Withdrawal Agreement to a so-called “Meaningful Vote” once again.

A third time, after it had suffered crushing defeats twice already. Fellow leaders asked the British Prime Minister what she would do if her Deal were to be voted down and her reply was that she was simply following her plan to get her deal through.

Germany’s Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth spoke for many before the summit when he demanded “clear proposals of the UK Government on why an extension [to the negotiation period] is necessary”.

But in the absence of any workable proposal from May, it was left to the leaders of the 27 EU Member States, Angela Merkel among them, to propose a pragmatic way forward and save the UK from the No Deal Brexit cliff edge of its own making.

After this latest dose of the EU having to save Britain from itself, ZDF’s satirical Heute Show put its finger on a nerve. “Who wants to talk about Brexit again?” Oliver Welke asks in the latest episode. Cue loud groans from the audience. “Brexit is stuck in the mother of all cul de sacs” he goes on. “Even the British themselves have had enough of it!”

If the absence of pragmatism in UK politics is the symptom, then the root cause is harder still for the German satirists, journalists and politicians to understand. Why can the British political parties not find a compromise between themselves to make Brexit work? If the CDU can collaborate with the SPD to form a grand coalition in Berlin, why not work that way to find a solution for Brexit?

The heart of this issue is the very different nature of political parties, and how they are led, how starkly different parties are in the UK in comparison to Germany. The Conservative and Labour Parties have been sworn enemies for decades, and in the House of Commons have not needed to collaborate in modern times. In May and Corbyn, they are each led by people who have each spent more than 40 years in their respective parties.

While Germans may laugh about John Bercow barking “Order, order”, they ought to reflect on why British political culture is so bad that he has to even seek to control the braying masses in the Commons. Such tumult in the Bundestag would, thankfully, never happen.

Trying to solve these party issues – either by replacing May or Corbyn or both of them, or reforming the party system (that is in turn dependent on the archaic electoral system) – are topics for the period once the short term crisis of Brexit has passed.

As if that were not enough, one of the reasons MPs in the House of Commons cannot sort out the mess Theresa May’s Brexit has created is rooted in one of the other traditions of UK politics – the constituency connection. Yes, Members of the Bundestag have their Wahlkreise, but there are lists too. In the UK there are only constituencies.

Brexit has been tying pro-EU Labour MPs in northern English constituencies in knots. Old industrial towns like Wigan, Doncaster or Stoke on Trent – where barely a German tourist has ever set foot – voted to leave the EU, but return Labour MPs to Westminster, and those same Labour MPs are largely pro-Remain.

“But Brexit will hit the economies of these places hard!” say German commentators with a perplexed look on their faces. Indeed. But voters are not rational – Brexit was a way that some of these left-behind places could kick the system, in the same way as voting for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) was largely a protest vote.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the Bundestag, which tends to be calmer than Westminster. Image: DPA Meanwhile on the Conservative side, the party’s members are even more heavily pro-Brexit than the party’s voters. Tory pragmatists like Nick Boles are not scared of their voters but worried by the Europhobic attitudes of members that would then not be ready to reselect them to be the party’s candidate for their constituency at the next election.

So then the UK’s lack of pragmatism in the Brexit negotiations is rooted in its dysfunctional parties, and that in turn is amplified by the narrow, local focus on constituencies imposed by the election system. It would all be quaint and traditional for German onlookers, had Brexit not amplified it into a crisis for the UK itself and a mighty headache for the EU.

The author is a Berlin-based political analyst, consultant and blogger.

Related Articles

German Voters Dominate, Malta Least Represented in Upcoming European Parliament Elections

As the 2024 European Parliament elections draw near, set to take place from 6 to 9 June, Eurostat has requested national statistical institutes across...

Construction Begins on German PWO Factory in Čačak

The German Ambassador to Serbia, Anke Konrad, alongside Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and PWO Group Serbia Director Carlo Lazzarini, laid the foundation stone for...

Serbia Ascends as Key Trade Partner for Germany

Serbia is set to become a net exporter to Germany by 2025, overtaking its imports from the economic powerhouse, according to a recent study...

Ireland to Ban Tobacco Sales to Under-21s

Ireland is poised to become the EU's inaugural member to prohibit tobacco sales to those under 21, shifting from the current age limit of...

Scholz Champions Western Balkans’ Path to Membership

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in Slovenia, advocated for quickening the EU accession for the Western Balkans, underlining the importance of reform-driven progress over geopolitical...

Vaughan Gething to Become First Black Welsh Premier and First Black Leader in Europe

Vaughan Gething is set to make history as the first black Premier of Wales following his victory in the leadership contest for the Welsh...

Serbia Poised to Drive Regional Growth, Says German Ambassador

Germany's Ambassador to Belgrade, Anke Konrad, has expressed optimism about Serbia's capacity for accelerated progress towards European Union membership, suggesting the nation could become...

India Set to Overtake Japan and Germany, Eyeing Third Spot in Global Economy by 2027

India is poised for a monumental economic leap, projected to surpass Japan and Germany to claim the title of the world's third-largest economy by...